The Power of Focus
Isn’t life amazing? Though sometimes frustrating, overwhelming, even infuriating, our journey through the material world is a truly fantastic adventure filled with potential for fulfilment and pleasure. But how many of are actually taking advantage of all that is on offer? Or to put it another way, how many of us are simply coasting through on cruise control and missing much of what’s out there?
Life is certainly complex. Numerous things demand our attention, and in the final analysis most of these urgencies are utterly meaningless. Have we paid the gas bill?, remembered Mrs X’s birthday?, chosen the right outfit for the company “do”?….. The list is endless. The trouble is, with so much noise, can we even hear – never mind respond to – the real message?
One human lifetime is incredibly short. Compared to how long the earth has existed our time here is not a drop in the ocean.
So why are we here? Is it just to acquire material wealth? If that’s so, we’ll soon be under six feet of dirt and our physical acquisitions won’t matter a damn. Is it to make a lasting contribution? Quite possibly. We each contribute what we can, and our individual contributions all count towards the sum of human achievement – great or small. But the real purpose of our life is experiential growth. Our bodies will soon rot away, and all that will remain is the intangible part which is “I”.
If you believe we truly have free will, that we truly have the ability to FEEL sorrow, pain, joy, fear, anger, love… then we are more than our physical body and the part which is more is infinite and its purpose in incarnation is to learn and grow. No more, no less.
Many of us find ourselves drawn between the pursuit of short-term pleasure or long(er)-term success. Do we spend the evening going to the bar or studying for the qualification that will bring us a better lifestyle? It’s easy to choose the bar, but in the morning we find ourselves with no more than a headache and a lighter wallet.
What is lacking in many of us is a sense of focus. This is the knowledge of our specific life purpose and the will to ensure it is carried out. Life is short and time passes quickly, especially aimless time. Before we know it our life will have passed us by, and the sum of our meaningful achievements remains close to zero. The problem is that we have failed to identify a purpose, or having identified our purpose we have dissipated our energy on a myriad of nothingness.
The Advantage of Purpose
We can be compared to light. On a cloudy day the light from the (tremendously powerful) sun is so spread out and weakened it cannot even cast a shadow. On a clearer day, with the aid of a magnifying glass, the same sun can start a fire. In the extreme, a laser beam can cut metal. The same entity, light, but the difference is the degree of focus. If we can achieve that same focus, and apply it to a purpose-driven life, there is truly no limit to what we can achieve.
But first we have to decide what to focus on, or at least rediscover what we already decided before being born into this world. Each of us is a unique individual, possessed of a unique set of attributes – strengths, weaknesses, inclinations, fascinations… Though we all have free will, our particular characteristics and personality seem to suit us for a certain direction. We don’t have to follow it, but when we do we find the pathway smoother. Circumstances too seem to assist rather than obstruct our journey. This is the real meaning of karma.
Self-knowledge comes from introspection and meditation; from reviewing our journey so far, what’s worked well, and what hasn’t. But such introspection takes effort, and will. It’s all too easy to put it off until tomorrow, or to see only what we want to. Given the audience is just one, ourself, we can and must be brutally honest.
How many of us are too busy to focus? Or at least that’s our excuse. There’s a stack of bills to be paid so we carry on in the same old way not because we want to, but because it’s a means to and end and we know it works. We’re like rats running around a wheel. Like a drug it allows us to avoid or abdicate the difficult choices. Many of us are simply living without purpose.
The world is big and we are small. We can’t possibly explore every opportunity or fight every battle. So we must identify those that are most worth pursuing – for us. This is an individual matter to be decided in the light of our self-knowledge. A different person in the same situation may choose entirely differently, yet you and he can both be right.
Having overcome the common condition of aimlessness we must then avoid the desired state of focus descending into the less desirable condition of obsession. Being focused still allows time for other pursuits, eg spending time with loved ones, following hobbies etc. Do not neglect these; in particular, always make space for loved ones, as they are what define our very purpose. Taking time out doesn’t damage our focus. To the contrary it allows us to return with fresh enthusiasm and lets us see the wood from the trees.
Another common human fault is to waste time fretting over things that can’t be altered. What is, is – end of story. None of us can turn back time, so quit trying, you’re only dissipating your precious energy. If something is given, accept it. Instead direct your focus to things you can change/influence.
By taking time to discover and define our purpose we live more effectively and gain more satisfaction in the process. By aligning our efforts with our motivations and interests (ie our focus) we become far more potent. Once you find your purpose, the quality of your existence will follow naturally.